Reed Hastings got the idea for Netflix when he owed a video store $40 for a movie he had misplaced.

Still. We all have ideas. Acting on an idea, turning the word "idea" into a verb--that's the hard part.

So what made it possible for Hastings to act on his idea? Confidence. 

But not just any old confidence. An almost irrational degree of confidence.

As Hastings says,

... as an entrepreneur you have to feel like you can jump out of an airplane because you're confident that you'll catch a bird flying by.

It's an act of stupidity, and most entrepreneurs go splat because the bird doesn't come by, but a few times it does.

Think about the keys to success: persistence. Skill. Experience. Dedication. Focus. The list of attributes is almost endless. Fortunately, you don't have to possess them all. (In fact, you can't possess them all, which is why no one ever accomplishes anything worthwhile totally on their own.)

But according to Hastings, you do need to possess one thing: 

Irrational optimism.

Push Aside Your Own Doubts

To be remarkably successful, you need to believe.

In yourself.

Of course, it's natural to doubt yourself. You might not think you're smart enough. Or dedicated enough. Or adaptable enough. You might simply think that in spite of your best intentions and best efforts you just don't have what it takes to succeed.

But you're wrong.

If you're willing to work hard, persevere, and take a chance on yourself, who you are is more than enough. Even if you're on the extreme downside of advantage. Even if you feel you have nothing going for you. 

You don't have to wait: to be accepted, to be promoted, to be selected, to be connected.

You can start your own business. Publish your own work. Distribute your own music. Create your own products. Attract your own funding.

You can do almost anything you want. You don't need to wait for someone or something else.

The only thing holding you back is you -- and your willingness to try.

Push Aside the Doubts of Other People

Even so, other people can make it hard to believe in yourself. Family and friends tend to shoot multiple holes in your ideas, mostly because they care about you and don't want to see you fail.

Which is why the people around you almost never say, "Hey, that's a great idea. You should definitely do it!"

Few people are wired that way. Most (including me) are a lot better at identifying and listing potential problems. We're better at playing devil's advocate than enthusiastic supporter.

And that's why you need to be irrationally optimistic: not because the odds are stacked against success, but because irrational optimism helps you succeed in ways capital, business plans, and marketing savvy can't.

Then Blend in a Tiny Dose of Logic

Of course, you can take irrational optimism too far.

That's why Hastings also says:

"Be brutally honest about the short term ... and optimistic and confident about the long term."

Analyze short-term results. Make smart course corrections. Fix what isn't working. Improve what is working.

Take a cold, clinical view of everything you do today.

Irrational optimism about the future is great, but only if you're also brutally honest about the present. 

Be smart over the short term. Be logical over the short term. Be rational and calculating over the short term.

Never stop trying to improve your skills, your team, your products and services. Be brutally honest about how where you are impacts where you want to go.

But always be irrationally optimistic about the future.

Believing in yourself makes it possible to stay the course and do the work to be what you dream of becoming.

Published on: Feb 7, 2019
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